When an experiment is conducted where researchers ask participants about how much a recently bought object brings them happiness, it was found that an expensive high-end car brings more personal satisfaction than an average vehicle. However, when the same participants were asked about how they experienced their last trip, the price of the vehicle did not affect their experience.
The first concept is that when it comes to purchases, experiences always trump things. I have tried to explore various counterfactuals but I can not come up with anything that contradicts this. My only conclusion is that some experiences lose their value when they lose their novelty. Your fourth Hokkaido trip may be much more boring than your first. Of course, you can simply buy more and more exotic experiences.
The second concept is that of the hedonic treadmill. After living in a landed property, there is a tendency to get jaded so it no longer brings you pleasure. In fact, losing your landed property can bring you lots of misery.
I am currently grappling the consequences of accepting these ideas as fundamental truths. They seem so powerful and almost spiritual in it's universality.
Suppose if we can retreat into a life of computer gaming and binge watching of Netflix where Internet media repeatedly comes up with novel ways of entertaining us, isn't that a life of complete and utter satisfaction ? Then why do people even bother setting up families and having children when they can defeat enemies in Warcraft, run mega corporations in Eve or explore different universes by binge watching series ?
Social science is catching on to this new reality.
The useless class in the US are lowly-educated jobless males who no longer participate in the labour markets. They started showing up in labor statistics since the Great Recession and labour participation rates never recovered. Shocklingly, social scientists are detecting high levels of life satisfaction amongst these guys. I've always attributed this to better computer games, especially RPGs, which can credible make up for the lack of achievement in anyone's lives. I would forget that moment as a 9 year old that in Dungeons and Dragon, you can have a Strength of 18 and can level and get better as you murder more monsters.
We can laugh at hikkikomori of Japan and label them as losers but the latest Economist article last week is gushing about how satisfied and happy these guys are living with their parents and having no responsibilities of their own.
I think Asia is undergoing some sort of Renaissance that sees the otaku and hikkikomori transform into a phenomenon that is more acceptable in society. The Japanese have this new term to describe these men : The Satori Sendai or the Enlightened Generation. China has also followed suit with gentler labels like Buddhist Youth.
Right now, I don't have a grand unified theory that synthesises all these concepts but a combination of technological disruption, augmented reality and virtual worlds is normalizing the destruction of ambition on our men. I leave you to decide whether this is a good thing.
It gets more ludicrous once you include the financial perspective. A single man may only need $150k-$200k to generate $1,000 a month to live a hikkikomori life of living with parents and playing CRPGs all day. Parents can even be given a small allowance.
So perhaps it's that little bit of financial savvy can turn a hikkikomori to a satori sendai.
This way, Capitalism is the new Buddhism of the masses.